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I don’t get it. You’ve still got resistance, but you’ve lost all the flexiblity of a bicycle. Perhaps you can elaborate about why this would make sense practically or economically. Maybe I’m just missing something.
Kelly, let me help. 1. The Shweeb produces no pollution and no noise. 2. The Shweeb displaces the pollution and noise that would be caused getting people from place to place if the Shweeb did not exist. 3. The Shweeb is elevated so it creates no road traffic. 4. The Shweeb displaces cars that would otherwise be ahead of you in traffic. 5. You go fast, up to 60 mph with electric assist and good aerodynamics. (Metal wheels on metal rails is somewhat more efficient than rubber on roads, it’s why train freight is so much cheaper than truck freight.) 6. It’s good exercise. 7. Bicycle maintenance is inexpensive. 8. It’s cheap to build because it is lightweight and the Shweeb velomobiles have low cross-sectional area. 9. The rights of way needed is basically occupied by telephone poles and could be shared with existing cable, power and telephone, (even with water mains here in Florida to produce a solar hot water utility). 10. Living next to a Shweeb line is a blessing, not a nuisance. 11. Computer control (the more effort you provide, the lower the cost) means no stopping and it prevents accidents). 12. What am I Woodrow Wilson?
Ross, I think Kelly has a point. All the benefits you wrote could well be used to describe a standard bicycle.
Except the speed of travel and getting run over by dump trucks.
Oh right, so we should invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per mile to add a monorail track along all major roads? Are you willing to fund that, because I’m sure DOT doesn’t have that kind of money.
So, what, build more roads at 100X’s the price/user?
DOT doesn’t have the imagination, either, as a majority of Americans now spend years of our lives in gridlock.
The ancient picture is actually showing the invention of Carl Eugen Langen in Cologne, Germany. This was also around the 1890s. Hotchkiss bicycles were over (around) the rail, not under. Langen later developed the Schwebebahn in Wuppertal.
Glorified amusement ride..Makes no practical sense (that I can see).
While I don’t want to dismiss the concept outright, since everything needs to start somewhere…This just seems so cluttered with limitations & inefficiency(s).
I can dismiss the assertion of it being inexpensive to build. Based on north american requirements & standards for public transportation, this concept will unfortunately price itself out of the realm of feasibilty quickly. To bring up electric assist, etc just makes it more unfeasible and costly &complex. The limitations are too vast for the minor & limited public benefit…Could you imagine the uproar the spending of public dollars would be with a project like this?
My bike just plainly works better (or with more practical efficiency)…I can go directly to my destination, I get a good workout, I save time by not needing to search out a station, load into a unit, etc, etc…
The displacement of cars on the street seems rather laughable, since the limitations of the numbers of cars” that can be on a section of rail at any given time (also of note, the more riders on a section of track, the bigger/stronger/more engineered (read expensive) it need to be. To say “it’s cheap to build , ‘cuz it’s light” certainly doesn’t base itself in reality of modern city infrastructure. The cost vs benefit doesn’t add up with this concept as presented.
The more I loook & think about this, I reinforce my first impression of it being a very expensive and inefficient amusement ride.
Electric motors $100.00. Buses cost 1000 X’s this.
Things that have to support a few hundred pounds cost much less than things that have to support several tons.
Commute on the Shweeb. Run errands on your bike.
I created the stories for Avatar, Titanic, The Matrix, Close Encounters, etc. I’ve found a cure for crime, drug addiction & perversion. Me and Google think this Shweeb thing is great. Of course Google has money while I’ve chosen poverty–and creativity. I’m just spitballing here, but maybe everybody should listen to me?
Sorry, it’ll never fly (literally). All of the advantages of a bike except one very big one: Being able to go from any point to any other point, at will. Plus add the expensive, inflexible, single-use infrastructure and you have a recipe for non-starter.
It’d sure be a drag to get stuck behind a slowpoke on one of these…
Ross, don’t misunderstand me. As a cyclist and commuter, I’m excited by potential solutions to transportation issues. And if Google wants to invest in the idea, they must see something in the concept. But aside from how much fun it would be to ride one, I see severe downsides as a transportation system.
Excepting your points 3 and 5, a standard bicycle already achieves the benefits you’ve listed. So the idea really rests upon finding an application where those advantages really shine. That’s what I don’t get.
For an urban commuter application, where the potential speed and elevated rails would be helpful, the system isn’t as efficient as you suggest. Unlike buses or trains, which continuously loop to carry new passengers, this system would be horribly restricted by commuter flows. During the daytime, the pods would set in their downtown terminal waiting for a passenger to take them back out. The capital cost of that inefficiency would would be very high.
In addition to the loss of flexibility, which is why most public transport systems are not super-successful, another downside is heat. In the summer, the temperature inside the pods would be incredible. Without some form of air conditioning, I don’t see how they could be used outside of Seattle.
I’m not suggesting that Shweeb doesn’t have suitable applications. In fact, the challenges I mention have some work-arounds. But I think it will be hard to find a niche between standard bicycles and current light-rail.
Ross,…I’m sorry but I have to agree with all the skepticals. I really don’t see how this is better, cheaper and more substainable than an old fashion bike lane. Most of the points you mention in the first reply are comparing the Shweeb to using a car, but there is also a third way, which is just riding a bike. The only real benefit is speed, but is that enough to build such an intrusive and expensive infrastructure. The problem of getting run over by trucks is real when biking in a normal road, but again…why not a simple bike lane?
We are also forgetting some of the real values of biking, which are being in the open air, interacting with the environment, stimulate human relations and many other aspects that make biking a social matter. Forcing people in cubicles goes exactly in the opposite direction, reducing the revolutionary potential of biking into a mere movig from A to B issue.
I see that it is very exciting working on such a big toy and I recon it might even get to work in a few cases, but it is no way better than a good old bike ride. The intentions are good but the result is very dubious to me. Everything that turns something very simple into something unnecessarily complicated is a failure.
Having Google investing in it doesn’t make it automatically worth the money and the fact that you worte the stories for Avatar and some other impressive productions (which are a very discussable way of spending huge amount of money) is not a guarantee on whatever you might create afterwords.
I do beleave biking is one of the keys for a more substainable future, I just don’t think we should speculate on it, building infrastructures that are actually narrow down the original potentialities of biking.
Sorry for being so critical, but I think it is a very important subject we’re discussing about. I share your concerns (I’m also buisy trying to promote the use of bycicles) I just don’t think what you’re proposing helps the cause.
While we reside in the design discussion phase, it is important to air all concerns. All of you should take a moment to air those same critical concerns about the predominant automotive system of commuter transportation in light of what you’ve just said. Hung ultra-light rails are cheaper than roads by orders of magnitude. It is true that not all these velomobiles will be running all the time and some storage would be required, but surely automated warehouses can hold a lot more of these than automobiles, I mean, look at them, they’re already on rails? Huh? Plus they could be designed to nest into each other without much difficulty.
About stalled vehicles, back up and go another route or use two lanes each way? (There’s a novelty for you.) Rail switching is easy tech. One strong person could move 10 or 20 of these light weight cars along, just like … a train! This is not rocket science here, ladies and gentlemen. It’s frankly shocking to read these myopic, thoughtless objections.
One roadway bridge rendered unnecessary would pay for an entire city-wide system of these rail velomobiles. And if you still aren’t satisfied, string your own cable/rail from your home to work with a personal car from your balcony for far less than the cost of building an automobile, garage, driveway, and rural roadway.
“It’s frankly shocking to read these myopic, thoughtless objections.”
Ross, I am glad to see some debate on this idea from both the supporters and the skeptics. Your opinions are appreciated (as are everyone’s), but refrain from condescending statements like the one above in your comments. Belittling the valid concerns of others does not help your case.
Ross, are you serious? “Hung ultra-light rails are cheaper than roads by orders of magnitude” Yeah, except that roads already exist everywhere, and we can bike anywhere on that network at any time with no impedance of other bikers. Do you really think a rail system with multiple lines to allow passing would be cheap? Where are you putting the posts to hold up the rail systems in cities? You can’t just add rails on top of buildings at various heights, and what building owner would care to have cyclists going over their building, just adding liability to their property. I don’t think any DOT would care to add hung rails over roads, which are perfectly capable of handling cycling traffic.
You might want to take a lesson in physics too. It would be crazy to expect that a single rider could just push along 20 others. They might be light weight compared to cars, but expect 50lbs per pod, plus 150-200 per rider. If riders are pushed in the system, they’ll be less likely to put in effort themselves also. It just won’t work that way.
Like others said, it’s a neat concept, but it’s purely an amusement ride.
Actually, a single velomobile rider on rails can put 20 others, if necessary. She would not even need to be in good health. You see, railroads are amazingly efficient–of course, they’re restricted to railroad grades, too.
I’ll believe you if you can find data to prove it. Do you honestly believe that one person could push 20 others? I’d assume a rider and bike average about 200lbs each, so that’s 2 tons for 20. There is absolutely no way a single rider can push 2 tons along rail. Yeah, steel on steel is more efficient than rubber on asphalt, but we do still have to work within the laws of physics here. Throw in a 1% grade and you’ll just be rolling backwards.
Worked in a meathouse, did it all the time. Railroads are very efficient. 436 ton-miles per gallon of Diesel is the US train average. Twenty people == 1 ton. Average car weighs two tons and we can push that, right? There’s a lot less friction with rails, that’s why trains need rocket brakes to slow down quickly. (Oops! Trains still don’t have rocket brakes–sorry!) So, what I’m saying is, you don’t need a Ph.D. in physics to have a feel for this by approximation. We don’t have to run endless experiments to be convincing, either. All it takes is a reasonable intelligence and some life experience. A few physics courses haven’t hurt, either, mind.
That may be true on completely flat ground, but add the slightest incline and it’s impossible. A 0% grade is equivalent, a 0.1% grade is double the effort, and a mere 1% grade is 10x the effort. Math is a helpful tool, you may want to try using it before making assumptions.
Well, I modeled for the character of Will Hunting in the flick of the same name as well as for parts of A Beautiful Mind. Sometimes stuff is just too trivial to bother. Perhaps it is because I live in a flat coastal town? I have no interest in Shweeb, perhaps I just hate to see great ideas shot down in public by those unwilling to lift their souls. We all need to look up enough to see the blue sky above us and to consider alternatives. They have one of these up and running in New Zealand. They have a website, too. Talk to them about how impossible it is?
It works in NZ because it’s a fun amusement ride on a small track. That works.
Scaling it up to the size of a whole city, funding it, and assuming people will choose that over driving or riding a conventional bike is not trivial. $10 would be trivial, not $10mil
Construction costs for highways are about $4 million dollars a mile, more in cities (see Boston’s Big Dig for the highest in history). There are about 160,000 miles of highways in the US, nearly 4 million miles of other roads. $10 million dollars is trivial by comparison, but, hey, I’m just spitballing here.
That would be a good argument if cycling was banned from roads. In this country at least, that’s not the case. Don’t forget that anywhere a magical scweeb can go, a bike can go too, and far beyond it because of our wonderful road system which is already in place. Bike-rail systems are an auxiliary system, which only adds redundancy at a very high expense.
This is a bit silly isn’t it. It may avoid traffic, but where will the supports be built? on pavements causing even more congestion probably. And in order to work above traffic and/or people (if not, separate highways will need to be built for them) they will have to be at least 5m off the ground… which means if the rider in front of you dies of cardiac arrest, you’ll be stuck… unless you happen to have a ladder to get down.
Metal wheels are all very well for going quickly on the flat, but not ideal if you want to slow down suddenly, or climb a gradient. And surely the main appeal of cycling is the freedom it gives? Google must be mental.
I am glad to see some debate on this idea here in the comments section. Keep it up!
Though I think the concept is interesting (and I would personally love to try it), I do think the skeptics make some great points. In particular, I wonder about the issue of slower, or stopped, traffic ahead…something that is never an issue with bicycles on a path.
You certainly have to wonder if a system like this would generate a lot of initial public interest that would fade as the novelty started to wear off (probably the same thing that happened to the Hotchkiss Bicycle Railway and others in the late 1880s). I don’t know the answer to that, but I do see a few possible benefits over a dedicated bicycle path system. The application that I can imagine this for initially would be a corporate campus (most likely Google’s). I don’t really see it as a municipal transit solution yet. For a limited campus or cluster application though, the possible benefits I see are:
1. The ability to cross roads and other existing infrastructure without lights, stop signs, etc. These tracks could even go next to/into buildings as stops on a campus loop.
2. The integrated system approach (pods vs. independent bike) deters theft and vandalism and eliminates the need for parking
3. Increased speed/efficiency due to decreased wind resistance and rolling resistance (minimal friction loss).
4. The novelty of the system might attract users with no prior interest in bicycles (as mentioned before though, they might not stick with it).
I don’t know if those possible benefits could ever outweigh the obvious cost and logistic issues that need to be addressed, but I would love to hear more from someone on the development team at Shweeb on that subject. I am sure that they have discussed and addressed many of those problems in the development so far, so it would be great to hear a response to some of the very valid concerns.
One major downfall I didn’t see mentioned yet is what plagues current bike-sharing systems. In nearly every system, there are particular destinations that are far more popular than others. To counter that, someone needs to then transport all the piled up vehicles and distribute them back through the city. For instance, people might all ride these pods TO the grocery store, but then take a bus or carpool home if they can’t fit their purchases in the pod with them. Who then rides 100 pods to various locations around the city to redistribute them? At least with bikes, you can pile many in a box truck and drop them off in several locations. With this system, you are limited to where the track goes, and would likely have to pedal them back only a few at a time.
I can really only imagine a pod bike system working on a linear path. There could be a <3 mile track with a few places to "pull off" along the way. That allows for slow people to get out of the way is there's a que behind them too. The pods would always go in the same direction around a loop so that they can never pile up too much in a particular place (or if they do it would be easy enough to push along a few pods at a time to get them distributed). It still wouldn't be cheap – I'd guess this would cost in the order of $1mil for 3 miles of 2-way track, 100 pods, and 5 stations along the way, as an example. It would still just be auxiliary too, since anyone owning a bike could just used roads instead, and this type of system would probably only be feasible where other transit exists too.
They would be better served to spend the million dollars on 500 miles of track, then let people supply their own personal single purpose machines (i.e. back and forth to work) and get companies to provide stations instead of parking lots .
That’s 38 cents per foot of track. You do realize that raised track would need a pillar every 50ft or so, and enough steel to hang pods off it, potentially one every 4-5ft assuming the worst case scenario of traffic. That could mean a weight bearing capacity of over a ton for between each pillar. That certainly would cost on the order of tens of thousands per section at a minimum. For it to run alongside DOT streets, it would have to meet certain standards. This isn’t your backyard rollercoaster made of scrap wood we’re talking about.
If riders had to supply their own pods, than forget it. Faired recumbent bicycles cost around $5000-$10000 each currently. Even a decent basic recumbent costs around $1000 new. People don’t drop that kind of money for a toy to be used only for a specific line of track. It needs to be part of the system if you want anyone to use it.
Many would prefer to remain pedestrian or dodge vehicles that are more dangerous than rhinos on their ways to work. The choice is yours. So for a longer commute to work: build your garage, buy your car, gas, pay your road tolls and taxes, just don’t ask me to help you pay for them and we’ll both be fine. You have it your way, I’ll take my way (way over your head) in my rail velomobile.
Ross, I think you’re missing the point of all this so called criticism. You keep numbering the advantages of the Shweeb over cars, but that’s not what people here is doubting of. I think nobody will dare to say that it is better to continue with this massive indiscriminate use of cars than implementing your system. Most of the concerns are about the fact that maybe an old fashion bike will do the job better than the Shweeb. So let’s forget about parking lots, automobile’s building costs, driveways, garage, traffic and pollution (that you very correctly use as negative exemples to make your point) and try to explain why the implementation of the Shweeb is better than investing in good standard biking infrastructures.
I will be honest, I’m a traditional biker and biking around just makes me happy, I don’t think I would never give that up to put myself into a capsule, but maybe the Shweeb could be attractive to all those people that right now don’t even consider the option of using a bike as a daily transportation. I honestly doubt it, but I would like if you or anybody else could convice me that I’m wrong.
This Shweeb is an added solution for those who wish to participate. If you want to ride your bare bike 20 miles a day back and forth to a job, have at it. Shweeb rails/cables can be hung on existing structures or on inexpensive new poles to allow people a healthy, comfortable long distance commute that doesn’t involve polluting the planet or consuming resources so voraciously that other nations can never attain our standard of living.
Sure, it would be nice to exclude cars by building new above ground tunnels for bikes only, but such construction would be even more expensive than automobile roadways. The Shweeb could run along the top of your bike-only tunnels or hang from the side of it.
I’m glad that biking around just makes you happy! Shweeb systems are more for densely populated cities than carefree wanderings in parks. Moving people in the rail velomobiles of a Shweeb system would allow many economies that are unavailable, even unthinkable, today. Some people see things the way they are and ask “Why?” Some people see how things could be and ask, “Why not?”
Why not just build elevated bike paths. They could be covered. Maybe some sort of glass tube. Solves the same problem, but allows you to use a regular bicycle.
Paul, here is a concept like the one you described.
That is really cool. I have been looking for something like that. Much better solution than the Shweeb thing. A bit bulkier, but still.
It’s a good concept, but the cost doesn’t seem worth the benefit. A rain coat and fenders work pretty well. Unless you have a tube system all over a city, than the chance of getting between destinations you need without being uncovered along parts of the trip would be very low.
At one point I heard that Dubai was considering some sort of enclosed air-conditioned bike path network. That was during the construction boom about 5 years ago, but if I could picture something like this being built anywhere, that would be the place.
The beauty with bicycles is that you can do both. You leave your home (with rain coat if needed), enter the bicycle highway tube, get off close your final destination, and ride the final (hopefully short) bit in the rain.
Whenever I read about some podcar or PRT project I think: Why not just build a tunnel for bicycles? Much more flexible and less stuff to break. A low-tech solution. Why does everything have to be over engineered?
Human complexity is ever increasing. The phenomenon is driven by economics, satisfying ever increasing human wants with lowest cost solutions. Generally, faster and cheaper transportation options are preferred over slower and more expensive designs, but not always. Beauty is a factor, too, as the expensive transportation designs of Calatrava epitomize. Hopefully the Shweeb can blend in delightfully. We will have to see.
Pollution of the air with ozone contributes dramatically to criminal behavior, drug-seeking, and nuisance perversions. Although those can now be remedied (http://tinyurl.com/y8vxlxp) with astounding ease, it is yet another technological fix. Still, that option suggests that we have no real need to resort to air conditioned above ground tunnels for bicycles. All those tubes would be awfully pretty, I agree. Sometimes low tech is just too slow and expensive. The Chinese abandonment of cycling is instructive. Sometimes utopia is where you find it.
Amen. PRT/Podcar/Shweeb projects are just fancier and more fun ways to get somewhere, but the system has to reach every potential destination to be useful. They are looking into a podcar system here, but we already has a good bus system that reaches far more destinations that podcars could. But people are still excited about podcars because they can isolate themselves along the trip. Is that worth the hundreds of millions? I’d say no way.
Shweeb seems very similar. Unless it reaches with about a quarter mile of every likely destination, that it’s just an amusement ride. Why be restricted to a track when you can just buy a bike and go wherever you want? The efficiency sounds nice, until you just get stuck behind someone. It would cost at least a million too, so how is that system ever going to pay for itself? Put that million towards effective bike lanes, and it would be a much better improvement.
This is not a zero sum game. Money going to the Shweeb system is not diverted from bicycle lanes. That assumption is patently preposterous. Shweeb is a game changer. Amusement park rides have but one destination: the origination, and they do very well, don’t they? It is nonsensical to require a station within a quarter mile of every destination, but it would certainly be cheaper than just about any other system out there. Remember, this highly efficient system is run mostly by human legs which better the popular health, diminish petroleum consumption and decrease pollution emissions. Buses are huge inefficient vehicles that spew filth into the air and consume vast public expenditures for fuel, maintenance and road repair.
The concept is interesting but why not try another way. What about designing a bicycle that runs on land and a monorail?
The monorail in my design is at the side of the bicycle path about 8 inches off the ground!
I envisage a half recumbent/cruiser style bike with special rail wheels on each wheel axle. The pedals are high enough to miss the monorail underneath. The bike is placed on the monorail and the rider can travel faster between destinations and can stop and get off anytime.
This gives you all the benefits of a standard bike and the fast monorail!
Once the monorail is installed which would be much cheaper all we have to do is buy the bike!
See? Peter Johnson’s already come up with an innovative solution!
If your journey between towns is say 25 miles and if you rode a bike constantly on a cycle path with flat and slope sections at an average of 10 mph the journey time would be an average of 2 and a half hours. With the monorail lets say I ride and. . maintain an average of 20mph then journey time is 1and a quarter hours.
i would be much happier arriving quicker to the same destination. I may have used thesame effort as you but i arrived much earlier/ I believe this alone would attract potential riders!
It would be more like going from 2:30 to 1:50, assuming that you can get on and off the track exactly where you wanted. Otherwise add in some time walking, and then you probably haven’t saved any time overall.
The cycle path you ride on is there to provide a safe and convenient road for you to travel on your bike..it is there for you to use. . You have the choice to use it or not. If my monorail was in place on the cycle path you now have a choice to use this. It would make your journey quicker – less wear and tear on your bike tyres especially on a long run. – more fun !
I believe that just like the cycle path is there and you take it for granted so you will also with the monorail.
Seems like building a commuter friendly bicycle infrastructure in our cities would be cheaper, and more efficient. Dedicated bicycle roadways, not shared roads.
I mean, with this “schweeb” system, do you own the pod? Or does one just show up when you want to ride somehow?
Why limit a pod to one or two people when everyone is going to same place anyway? Why not have 20 people pods where you share the effort? They could ride on current train tracks or light rail lines that are already in place.
I don’t know, everything about this proposal seems pretty poorly planned as a practical commuter device.
They do look fun tho. I could see a demand for them in places like disneyland, or maybe a photography safari type park, Beaches in place of those suspended cable rides, etc. I could see this being feasible as a tourist attraction.
Pedal Powered Pods Cars | jdiaz50